Arkona – Yav (Napalm Records)Wednesday, 16th April 2014
For many, folk metal is often viewed as “that happy music that people dance and get drunk to instead of violently headbanging and moshing.” If you happen to fall into that category as well, and haven’t heard of Arkona, don’t simply toss them into that category prematurely. Through six previous albums, Arkona have always kept the metal in their particular brand of folk, and Yav is no exception to this.
A band known for their consistency, don’t expect any real game-changers from Arkona this time around. They’ve basically patented their formula of intense black metal with more traditional sounding folky atmospheres spliced in along the way at this point. While they do provide a few breaks from the norm (notably “Serbia”), it’s basically business as usual. Not that it’s a bad thing. Maria’s vocals (and lyrics) are a continued treat, as is the incorporation of a number of traditional instruments that always operate as background. Arkona wisely focuses on the guitars as their source of ‘folk,” working in the added instrumentation as icing on the cake. One only needs to hear album highlight “Zov Pustyh Dereven” to see how seemless the jumps from scathing black metal to violin-enhanced folk truly are.
At near 70 minutes of material, there is simply a wealth of music to take in and absorb. Though there are a few moments that meander a bit too much on some of the longer tracks (“Jav,” “Zarozhdenie”), it’s a mostly engaging affair. Arkona have elevated their status over the years (including last year’s US tour) and by all means this should continue with Napalm’s continued support of the band. Yav remains an entertaining offering, even if it doesn’t bring much new to the table.